Senate debates

Wednesday, 31 October 2012


Responses to Senate Resolutions; Tabling

5:43 pm

Photo of Michaelia CashMichaelia Cash (WA, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration) Share this | | Hansard source

I seek leave to move a motion that the Senate take note of the response to the resolution of the Senate.

Leave granted.

I move:

That the Senate take note of the document.

I congratulate the Western Australian state government and, in particular, the Premier of Western Australia, Colin Barnett, on his response to the resolution. The Western Australian government is committed to preventing domestic violence and ensuring that its victims are supported both in and outside of the workplace. In his response to the resolution of the Senate, the Premier refers to the WA strategic plan for family and domestic violence2009-2013, which outlines state-wide systematic reform arrangements for family and domestic violence, focusing on better interagency responses, improved safety for victims and programs to help perpetrators of domestic violence.

In reviewing the Premier's response, I took the opportunity to have a look at the WA strategic plan. I am pleased to see that the strategies included in the strategic plan that aim to support the integrated responses are to:

Strengthen community understanding and awareness that family and domestic violence is not acceptable,

Focus family and domestic violence prevention and early intervention initiatives on children, young people, health and respectful relationships,

Provide an accessible, integrated 24 hour response throughout the State that includes crisis and post crisis intervention, and

Ensure that a range of evidence based programs and interventions for perpetrators of family and domestic violence are provided.

Certainly the aim of the strategic plan is to send a clear message to all Western Australians—and indeed all who read the strategic plan—that abuse in all forms will not be tolerated in our homes or in our communities.

I also note that the strategic plan acknowledges that family and domestic violence abuse is a fundamental violation of human rights and will not be tolerated in any way. In that vein, the coalition understands that violence against women in particular has a profound and devastating impact on both its victims and the community as a whole. The coalition has a zero-tolerance policy on violence against women. This violence is quite simply not acceptable. We believe that keeping women and their families safe from violence is the most fundamental step towards ensuring their security and their prosperity. Violence undermines our social fabric and prevents women from achieving social and economic equality and advancement.

When we were previously in government, the coalition established equitable and appropriately funded policies and programs for women, for families and for children. In particular, the coalition's policies aimed to ensure that all women could enjoy greater personal safety and that domestic violence was tackled and did not become intergenerational. The achievements of the former Howard government in relation to domestic violence are echoed in the response of the Premier of Western Australia in his response to the Senate resolution. From 1996 to 2007, the Howard government carried on the Liberal tradition of supporting and improving the position of women in Australia. The safety of women was a top priority for the Howard government, as it is a top priority for the Western Australian government under Premier Colin Barnett.

The Howard government dedicated $75.7 million over four years from July 2005 to the Women's Safety Agenda which addressed four broad themes of prevention, health, justice and services. The initiatives included the national 'Violence Against Women, Australia Says No' campaign that so many of us will be aware of and the national 24-hour helpline on the 1800 number.

The Women's Safety Agenda under the former Howard government aimed to prevent, reduce and respond to domestic and family violence and sexual assault. The Howard government also continued funding for the Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearinghouse and the Australian Centre for the Study of Sexual Assault national resource centres which provided central points for the collection and dissemination of Australian domestic and family violence and sexual assault policy, practice and research. This funding was exceptionally important as it enabled research into domestic violence and sexual assault, and training for nurses in regional and rural areas where we know that unfortunately the incidence of domestic violence is exceptionally high. It included assistance to release general practitioners for training for the criminal justice sector on sexual assault and continuation of the valuable research program on the various aspects of sexual assault by the Australian Institute of Criminology.

The Howard government also funded projects aimed at reducing the incidence of domestic and family violence and sexual assault in the Australian community through the domestic and family violence and sexual assault funding initiative. Many projects were directed at addressing violence and/or sexual assault experienced by women and children from Indigenous communities, non-English speaking backgrounds and rural and remote areas as well as women with disabilities and their children. In fact, a major element of the Howard government's commitment to women's safety was the $23 million national initiative to combat sexual assault.

We also noted that it is not just the women that we need to look after. We provided funding for Mensline, a professional support phone line providing advice for men to help them deal with relationship problems, and we made sure that this was continued. The Howard government also worked in partnership with state and territory governments, organisations, communities and many committed individuals. There are many committed individuals in our society when it comes to working towards reducing—and ultimately hopefully getting to zero—the number of domestic violence incidents. These individuals improve the position, participation and circumstances of all Australian women.

A future coalition government will take a whole-of-government approach to implementing policies that reflect not just a zero-tolerance attitude towards domestic and family violence but also the Liberal values of nondiscrimination and a fair go for all. As I have stated, domestic violence is just not acceptable. It is an issue that is also above politics, and I know that both the government and the Liberal Party see a zero-tolerance approach as the only approach that can be accepted by society. In going forward as a coalition spokesperson for the status of women, I look forward to a day when we are not standing in this place and reading out the statistics that one in three women are still subjected to violence in society. That would be a great day.

5:51 pm

Photo of Lee RhiannonLee Rhiannon (NSW, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak on the response we have here. It was welcome to see the premiers of a number of states respond to this important proposal with regard to addressing domestic violence in the context of the workplace

I noted that the Western Australian government did supply considerable detail and I certainly acknowledge that, these days, domestic violence is taken most seriously by governments at all levels and there are many outstanding programs.

The point of the original motion that went before parliament was to address domestic violence in the context of the workplace and how we can assist the victims of domestic violence, by far the majority of whom are women, so that the discrimination and the hardship they suffer are not further exacerbated by the situation that can arise in their workplace. They may have to take time off to attend court, they may feel humiliated, there may be difficulties in being able to handle their work properly, and conditions need to be provided to assist them when they are being abused in some domestic or family situations. Clearly, workers have the right to be safe at home and at work from domestic violence. I mentioned this in my first speech in this place: while there is a lot that divides us, I have a great belief that there is a lot that unites us—and this is one of those issues. Domestic violence can put jobs at risk. It affects performance, productivity and even safety at work—the safety of not just the person who is suffering domestic violence but also their colleagues.

We need a supportive and informed workplace where the victims of domestic violence will feel that they can disclose the crimes that are being committed against them. I want to acknowledge Australia's leading role in bringing forward many programs in this area, but it is in the particular area of workplace reform that we need to bring forward a number of changes.

In 2009, the Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearinghouse and the New South Wales Public Service Association began discussions regarding the introduction of domestic violence entitlements into industrial instruments. That is something that the Greens very much support. We believe that it is time for the government to advance this. So much work has been done. We have the proof that it is needed. Now we need the legislators to act, and that is where we have a responsibility.

The Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearinghouse, a project of the UNSW Centre for Gender Related Violence Studies, is a national organisation. The quality of its information is really outstanding. I would recommend that senators acquaint themselves with this work because it clearly underlines why we need to ensure that in an industrial context, in a workplace context, we need to make these changes.

The ADFVC provided evidence to the Public Service Association of a link between domestic violence and workplace safety. Both safety and performance clearly can be impacted if somebody goes to work traumatised because they have been abused in their home by somebody they have had a loving relationship with at some stage, and now they have to cope with this terrible change in their life. Clearly, they and other workers could be at risk. In Britain, this issue has been taken up strongly by a number of unions. We have considerable experience to draw on.

In December 2009, the Community and Public Sector Union, the State Public Services Federation and the Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearinghouse resolved to develop a model domestic violence clause to log in the 2010 round of enterprise bargaining in the New South Wales university sector. This work is being advanced by unions and a number of workplaces. Some businesses are coming on board, but there is a lot more that government should do. That was the intention when I put forward the original motion, and we are now receiving the response from state governments. I am a great believer it is going to happen. So much work is being done and the need has been demonstrated. I just hope that we do not drag the chain too much and that we can give support to the people who have done the research and demonstrated the need. So many people are victims of domestic violence. It is time that we advanced this program that would help expand the suite of policies and programs for victims of domestic violence, but there is this area that has not been addressed by our government in the detail that is required. I strongly urge Prime Minister Julia Gillard to add her voice to an issue that I believe unites our parliament.

Question agreed to.